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Acer Nitro 5 (17.3-inch) review: Immersive big-screen gaming on a budget

This laptop's king-size screen and smooth performance give you an immersive gaming experience that's bigger than its price.

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Joshua Goldman
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Joshua Goldman

Managing Editor / Advice

Josh Goldman helps people find the best laptop at the best price -- from simple Chromebooks to high-end gaming laptops. He's been writing about and reviewing consumer technology and software for more than two decades.

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3 min read
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Sarah Tew/CNET

The 17.3-inch Acer Nitro 5 brings something extra to entry-level gaming laptops, and not just a larger display. The screen is certainly a big part of its appeal, though: Most sub-$1,000 gaming laptops have 15.6-inch displays, and the Acer's larger screen lets you sink in and get lost in whatever world you're in. 

01-acer-nitro-5-an517-51-56yw
7.8

Acer Nitro 5 (17.3-inch)

Like

  • Immersive 17.3-inch display
  • Memory and storage easily upgraded
  • Easy access to power and cooling controls

Don't like

  • Keyboard markings can be difficult to read
  • Power jack in an awkward spot

Whether I was racing through the rain-soaked streets of Palm City at night in Need for Speed Heat, hiding out in a dumpster on Retail Row in Fortnite or picking off peggies in Far Cry 5, the extra real estate really does make gameplay feel more immersive. The screen is brighter than most at this price, with good off-angle viewing and decent color performance as well. 

Acer Nitro 5

Price as reviewed $880
Display size/resolution 17.3-inch 1,920x1,080-pixel IPS display
CPU 2.4GHz Intel Core i5-9300H
Memory 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 2,667MHz
Graphics 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650
Storage 512GB PCIe NVMe SSD
Optical drive None
Networking 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 5.0
Operating system Windows 10 Home

It helps, too, that gaming performance is smooth at the display's full 1080p resolution with quality set to high in the games I tried. I could actually set Fortnite beyond that at epic quality with no issues. Frame rates were just under 60 frames per second on more demanding games at high settings. But if you want more headroom for gaming into the future, I recommend looking for another gaming laptop with at least a GTX 1660 Ti or ideally a GeForce RTX 2060 -- not something you're likely to find at this price.

Acer's 17.3-inch Nitro 5 delivers big-screen gaming on a budget

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While you can't upgrade the graphics down the road, beefing up memory and storage isn't a problem. You'll need to remove about a dozen screws and carefully pry off the bottom, but once you do you can upgrade with up to 32GB of RAM and there's a second PCIe M.2 SSD slot (Gen3 x4) as well as room for a hard drive using the included upgrade kit and cable. Plus, like any gaming laptop worth its salt, there are plenty of ports for external expansion. 

Unfortunately, the power jack is in an odd spot in the middle of the right side, so the power cord is always somewhat in the way. And you'll pretty much always need to be plugged in, and not just for gaming, because battery life on our streaming video test was only 5 hours, 40 minutes. 

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You'll want to keep the Nitro 5's keyboard lit all the time. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

The rest of the laptop's design is OK, at least considering the price. It's relatively thin and light for a 17-inch gaming laptop -- note this is still nearly 6 pounds and an inch thick -- and it's mostly made of plastic. The keyboard feels good for typing and gaming, but the red markings on the black keys can be tough to read without the red backlight on. Acer moved some of the keys around from a typical layout, so you might need time to adjust including finding the power button, which is hidden in plain sight at the top-right corner.  

Acer did add a dedicated key to launch its NitroSense software (it's where the number pad's number-lock key would normally be). Hit the button and you'll have direct access to fan controls and power plans as well as system monitoring. You can also open it up to adjust audio profiles for different game types, music or movies, but you'll probably still want headphones to hear over the fans when doing anything that taxes the system. 

If you're looking for more screen for less money in a gaming laptop, Acer's 17.3-inch Nitro 5 should be in the running. Again, there aren't a lot of sub-$900 models with a big screen and these components, and it was only $780 at the time of this review, too, making it easier to recommend for immersive play on a budget. 

Geekbench 4 (multicore)

Lenovo Legion Y545 21528HP Pavilion Gaming 15-dk0045cl 19106Lenovo Legion Y730 17786Dell G5 15 5590 15615Dell G3 15 3590 15372Acer Nitro 5 AN517-51-56YW 13167
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Cinebench R15 CPU (multicore)

HP Pavilion Gaming 15-dk0045cl 1099Lenovo Legion Y730 1181Lenovo Legion Y545 989Dell G5 15 5590 844Dell G3 15 3590 810Acer Nitro 5 AN517-51-56YW 740
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Streaming video playback battery drain test

Dell G5 15 5590 490HP Pavilion Gaming 15-dk0045cl 382Acer Nitro 5 AN517-51-56YW 340Dell G3 15 3590 312Lenovo Legion Y545 299Lenovo Legion Y730 169
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance (in minutes)

3DMark Fire Strike Ultra

Lenovo Legion Y545 3066HP Pavilion Gaming 15-dk0045cl 2867Lenovo Legion Y730 1899Acer Nitro 5 AN517-51-56YW 1886Dell G3 15 3590 1883Dell G5 15 5590 1867
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Far Cry 5 gaming test

Lenovo Legion Y545 86HP Pavilion Gaming 15-dk0045cl 71Dell G3 15 3590 57Acer Nitro 5 AN517-51-56YW 50Dell G5 15 5590 48Lenovo Legion Y730 44
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance (FPS)

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (fps)

Lenovo Legion Y545 79.2HP Pavilion Gaming 15-dk0045cl 67.3Acer Nitro 5 AN517-51-56YW 51.2Dell G3 15 3590 50.7Dell G5 15 5590 48.7Lenovo Legion Y730 37.7
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance (FPS)

System configurations

Acer Nitro 5 AN517-51-56YW Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.4GHz Intel Core i5-9300H; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,667MHz; 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650; 512GB SSD
Dell G3 15 3590 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.4GHz Intel Core i5-9300H; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,667MHz; 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650; 1TB HDD
Lenovo Legion Y545 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-9750H; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,667MHz; 6GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti; 128GB SSD + 1TB HDD
Dell G5 15 5590 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.4GHz Intel Core i5-9300; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,666MHz; 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650; 256GB SSD + 1TB HDD
HP Pavilion Gaming 15-dk0045cl Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-9750H; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,667MHz; 6GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Ti with Max-Q Design; 256GB SSD + 1TB HDD
Lenovo Legion Y730 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.2HGz Intel Core i7-8750H; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,666MHz; 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti; 2TB HDD + 256GB SSD
01-acer-nitro-5-an517-51-56yw
7.8

Acer Nitro 5 (17.3-inch)

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 8Battery 7
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